Our Perfect Sacrifice

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 3, 2023

Roman 12:1-2

Matthew 16:21-27

Any true worship in the Bible comes in the form of offering sacrifice. What is a sacrifice? Sacrifice takes place when we offer something precious to God, and in ancient societies, cattle are considered to be precious possessions. Abel offered the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions [see Gen 4:4]. After the flood, Noah built an altar, and sacrificed animals that were pleasing to the Lord [see Gen 8:20]. At the feet of Sinai, Moses slaughtered oxen as sacrifices to the Lord as the covenant between God and Israelites was established [See Exo 24:4-5]. Yet, at times, non-bloody sacrifices are also offered. Melchizedek brought bread and wine as offerings [see Gen 14:18]. The entire book of Leviticus regulates the sacrificial worship of the Israelites. 

If the Eucharist is our worship, then what do we offer as a sacrifice in the Eucharist? Surely, it is neither animals nor any earthly things. Our sacrifice in the Eucharist is Jesus [see 1 Cor 5:7]. Since Jesus is divine and sinless, He becomes the perfect sacrifice, and consequently, the Eucharist is the perfect worship. 

However, if we see part of the Eucharist carefully, we encounter a sentence that the priest utters, “pray brethren, that my sacrifice and yours, may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”  This is intriguing because this sentence tells us that the faithful attending the Eucharist have a different sacrifice from the priest’s offering. If the sacrifice offered by the priest is the Body and Blood of Christ, then what is the sacrifice of the people?

St. Paul helps us answer this question. In his letter to the Romans, he wrote, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship [Rom 12:1; second reading].” Our sacrifices are our bodies and our lives. And, we offer our lives in the Eucharist and we unite them to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, this becomes our spiritual worship. 

Yet, Paul is also appealing that we offer not any kind of body, but holy and pleasing to the Lord. Thus, it is our duty to keep our lives from sins and things that are unpleasant to God. We cannot say that it is enough to believe in Christ, but we are not obeying His laws. We cannot claim that it is enough to go to the Church every Sunday but do evil on the other days. Every day is an opportunity to make our lives pleasing to the Lord.

Lastly, we need to remember that suffering is also part of our lives. Thus, if we endure unavoidable sufferings with patience, this too can be part of our living sacrifice that is pleasing to God. In the Eucharist, our lives and our sufferings are offered as our living sacrifice and since it is pleasing to God, our lives transformed into blessings. Now, we know why God allows suffering in our lives. This is why Jesus rebuked vehemently Peter for preventing Him from bearing the cross and dying. In Christ, eventually, sufferings may even become blessings.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

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